The 8th Wetland Link International – Asia was held at Mella Hotel, Las Piñas City, Metro Manila Philippines on 26-29 July 2022. The theme of the Conference was “Healing with Nature – Wetlands and Wetland Centers In-Focus” and aims to highlight the benefits of wetland ecosystems to human health and the role of wetland centres in promoting health and well-being of people. It also emphasized that conversely, people can heal nature/wetlands, and highlighted the role of CEPA (Communication, Capacity-Building, Education, Participation and Awareness) in promoting wetland conservation, biodiversity and ecosystem restoration. The Conference was organized by the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc. (SCPW), Ramsar Regional Center – East Asia (RRC-EA), Wildfowl and Wetland Trust of UK (WWT) in cooperation with the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – National Capital Region (DENR-NCR). It was also supported by the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, NVH Global Limited and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB)
The WLI-Asia Conference provides a venue for members of WLI-Asia, including managers and stakeholders of wetland centres, to regularly convene, share updated information, and discuss planned activities for the network. The WLI-Asia has more than 60 members across more than 15 countries representing their wetlands and wetland centers. Representatives from Ramsar Sites in the Philippines were also present at the event.
The 4-day Conference consisted of Learning Sessions, Field Trip to Las Piñas-Paranaque Wetland Park, and a meeting of the network. The event which attended by more than 80 participants from 15 countries, was opened by Ms. Amy M. Lecciones, Executive Director of the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc (SCPW). Messages were given by Director Jacqueline Caancan, Chair of the Las Piñas – Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP) Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and Regional Executive Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – National Capital Region (DENR-NCR); Mr. Suh Seung Oh, Executive Director, Ramsar Regional Center – East Asia (RRC-EA); and Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, Executive Director, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).
The themes for the Learning Sessions include: 1) Wetland Management and Monitoring; (2) Community-based CEPA activities ; (3) Wetland Center and School Environmental Education and 4) Wetland Center Design. There were also special sessions for wetlands in the Americas, new WLI-Asia members and presentation on their wetland conservation activities from the academe (University of Surrey) and the private sector NVH Global Limited and Wetland No. 8 Rehabilitation, Boracay Island, Philippines by the JG Summit Petrochemical Group.
The Las Piñas – Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP), which has been recently accepted as the newest member of Wetland Link International (WLI) – Asia, hosted the third day of the 8th WLI – Asia Conference on 28 July 2022 as part of the field study of the event. During the brief program at the Wetland Center Wave, the LPPWP-PAMO discussed the profile of the wetland park. Ms. Haidee Pabalate, the focal person of Manila Bay Site Coordinating/Management Office, presented the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program to further highlight the importance of LPPWP in the ecological integrity of Manila Bay. The main highlights of the program were the exhibition of various CEPA (Communication, Capacity Building, Education, Participation, and Awareness) Materials of WLI – Asia member centers which were exhibited in LPPWP Wetland Center Wave, and the launching of The 4th SCPW Wetland Center Design Competition lead by Arch. Aaron Lecciones, the Lead of the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc (SCPW) Design Team.
The participants and guests were assisted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – National Capital Region (NCR) staff and Mr. Mike Lu, president of Wildbird Club of the Philippines, during the birding and wetland walk at the Freedom Island Nature Trail and the mangrove boardwalk. In the afternoon, the participants visited the National Museum of Natural History and had a mini city tour at Intramuros, Dolomite Beach, and Cultural Center of the Philippines complex.
Hon. Senator Cynthia Villar hosted a dinner reception for the participants at the Villar SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance). In her message before the participants and guests, she shared her advocacy in preserving LPPWP, using family resources to build the Wetland Center and encouraging people and organizations to support it. She emphasized the importance of this wetland park to the community, its eco-tourism values and as hedge against the onslaught of big waves as well as a carbon sink. She has been actively fighting off reclamation activities and with the well-meaning members of the LPPWP-Protected Area Management Board members, is pursuing the establishment of a substantial buffer zone to ensure its ecological integrity.
The Conference hoped to raise the profile of Las Piñas – Parañaque Wetland Park to further strengthen conservation efforts for this important urban wetland. The Conference was also a landmark event because it marked the expansion of the WLI-Asia Network to Oceania. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed among the Ramsar Regional Center – Asia (RRC-EA) represented by Mr. Suh Seung Oh, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) represented by Mr.. Chris Rostron, and Oceania represented by Ms. Christine Prietto (Hunter Wetland Center, Australia) and Ms. Karen Denyer (New Zealand) to expand and extend partnerships for a more prosperous future for wetland learning centers, not only in Asia, but now also all over Oceania.
The meeting of the network members also took place on the fourth day highlighting network matters such as the WLI-Asia Fund, WLI-Asia Study Visit Grant, and the venue for the next Conference. For the benefit of the new members and the Oceania countries present, Mr. Rostron shared the overview about the WLI Global while Ms. Vivian Fu also presented the Flyway Site Network in East – Asia Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP). It was agreed that the next WLI Asia – Oceania Conference will be hosted by Sri Lanka.